Written by Valerie Santanasto, VP Sales | dancker
Many of us have learned more about our peers in these last few months while working from home than we have over the years of working with them in an office. The pandemic created an opportunity for us to experience one another as full people: parents with young children who need care, children who support their parents, pet owners, urban vs. suburban dwellers, hobbyists, and the list goes on.
The global pandemic has allowed us a glimpse into a fuller understanding of the real person, rather than just the peers that we see at the office.
THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE NOT-SO-PRETTY
Could the global pandemic be the ‘reboot’ that corporate work cultures needed? Can we achieve better work-life balance as a result?
Maybe. But maybe not.
I was asked by a relative how nice it must be to be working from home and spending time with my family. As I tried to host a client call in the same room with my husband taking a video call and son playing drums in his virtual kindergarten music class, I suddenly missed my office. Pre-pandemic, working from home sounded like a dream for many of us. With a commute that was perhaps a minute as we walked to another room, we would have more time to spend with our family, friends, and pets. We’d get to dress more comfortably, and we’d work out more regularly. But after being required to work from home for months, balancing our daily lives in tandem with our work responsibilities has proven to be a juggling act that requires more attention and dedication than ever before.
In the office, we have spaces where we can focus, and set times to dedicate towards our work because we know that our other ‘life’ responsibilities are taken care of – kids, parents, pets, etc. Yet when we’re at home, the lines are blurred and we’re barraged with life at all times: children who want to play or need help with schoolwork, parents who need care, dishes that need to be done, meals that need to be cooked, laundry that needs to be washed, phone calls that need to be returned, pets that need to be walked and taken out.
Work gets interrupted, constantly, which means sometimes we’re working at odd hours of the day and night, and even on weekends to make up the time. We aren’t necessarily spending more time with our children or parents, because we can only give them pieces of our attention when we’re on a videoconference call with colleagues and clients, or catching up on emails and deliverables after a long day of meetings.
But while we all continue improving our skills as master jugglers…
CAN SCREENS BE BETTER AT CONNECTING US THAN FACE-TO-FACE INTERACTIONS IN THE WORKPLACE?
After working from home for months, we can all probably come up with a few ‘blooper’ moments that we’ve experienced as we’ve adjusted to regular, constant teleconferencing with our colleagues, peers, students, patients, instructors, physicians, and clients. Whether it was on our end or the person’s we were connecting with, at one point or another, someone or something has popped in on the screen, noises have been heard in the background as children laugh loudly while playing with one another or watching TV, and even some of those more embarrassing moments when someone didn’t know another person was on a teleconference call (you know which ones I’m talking about!).
We dress professionally from the waist up, and prepare for our ‘normal’ workday, but then our home life bursts in, and the boundaries that we’ve tried to put up between work and home come crashing down.
IS THAT SUCH A BAD THING?
Everyone sees the personal, and the formality of the meeting is broken. People let out chuckles, and say things like, “oh, you’ll never believe what my kid did last week!”, reminding us that these moments aren’t anything to be embarrassed, worried, or frustrated about. They’re reminders that we are all human, and they give us a chance to connect with one another on a deeper level – building truer, stronger connections and relationships as we realize we’re all in the same boat.
This work-from-home experience may not be providing us with the work-life balance we had hoped for, but we are seeing people bring their whole selves to work, which is a wonderful thing for our teams. As someone who is new to the org, this experience has helped me learn so much about my team, and vice versa.
While we can’t see our colleagues in person, some would say that we’re more connected than ever to one another’s lives as we see the personal bits and pieces pop in on screen. Fancy backgrounds on Zoom can only camouflage so much, but when we let our ‘natural’ backgrounds show, we share a little bit more of ourselves with our peers.
Returning to the office will be different, but many of us are ready and looking forward to it, especially so we can perform our best. Working from home has helped us build authentic, human connections and empathy – I’m looking forward to keeping that growing upon our return.
Valerie Santanasto, dancker’s VP of Sales, has 13+ years of experience. She leads our NJ Sales Team, helping Corporate, Healthcare, and Education clients create spaces where people want to work, learn, and heal. Valerie lives with her husband and two children in NJ.